Books Picture Books

Dr. Seuss’ Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! With some help from Jack Prelutsky & Lane Smith

 

I must say that I grew up on Dr. Seuss’ books. I can still vividly remember reading The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham just to name a few when I was around 4 or 5 years old. The odd names, peculiar images, colorful storyline – all contribute to the timeless magic that is Dr. Seuss.

This particular book, though, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! is extra special, primarily because it is one of Dr. Seuss’ unfinished manuscripts.  In the section on How this Book Came to Be, Janet Schulman, Seuss’ Editor at Random House, told the tale of how the book was skillfully woven from the assorted sketches and random notes of Dr. Seuss when he passed away. With the added genius of Lane Smith and Jack Prelutsky, Diffendoofer Day and Miss Bonkers were resurrected from the lost pages and doodles of Dr. Seuss. Part of the criteria that made Schulman choose this pair is that:

“They are funny and they are original. I knew I could count on them not to simply imitate Dr. Seuss, though they are big fans of his.”

And as to be predicted, the product is sheer genius:

“The result is the union of three one-of-a-kind voices in a book that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

As could be seen from the cover page, while the fonts match Dr. Seuss’ titles, the image already shows traces of Vintage Lane Smith marrying Dr. Seuss’ unmistakable character sketches. Lane Smith (along with Jon Sciezka) happens to be an absolute fave of mine – the pair introduced me to the world of postmodern picture tales. Hopefully, I do a feature of them very soon.

While there are also originally-worded text by Dr. Seuss integrated within the storyline, Jack Prelutsky’s lyrical voice is likewise clearly evident.

I just love this book on so many levels. This is a book made for teachers – or what teachers should be like, without sounding preachy, academic, or even pedantic. It is a fantastical story of a school where the kids are happy, bright, and eager to learn new things. How could that be? It’s the formula for any successful academic institution, yes?

The secret is…. They get to learn ultra important things such as “the ways a pigeon may be peppered” or “how to tell chrysanthemums from miniature poodles.” The most remarkable teacher though in the school could be seen in the person of Miss Bonkers who “teaches frogs to dance” and “pigs to put on underpants.” It is no wonder then that the School Principal, Mr. Lowe (who actually wears false eyebrows, shhh, it’s a secret in Diffendoofer school), has a crushie on the fantabulously exciting Miss Bonkers.

The happy students, though, experienced a crisis when Mr. Lowe sadly announced, with a tear on his cheek that:

“All schools for miles and miles around
Must take a special test,
To see who’s learning such and such –
To see which school’s the best.
If our small school does not do well,
Then it will be torn down,
And you will have to go to school
In dreary Flobbertown.”

Why is that such a threat? What is it about Flobbertown that makes the students of Diffendoofer school cringe in fear? Jack Prelutsky, with the voice of Seuss, describes it as such:

“It’s miserable in Flobbertown,
They dress in just one style.
They sing one song, they never dance,
They march in single file.
They do not have a playground,
And they do not have a park.
Their lunches have no taste at all,
Their dogs are scared to bark.”

In Singapore, where the test-taking culture predominates, Diffendoofer Day is a book that might serve as a lovely reminder of the fun and joy that used to be School and the excitement and inspiration that should be the Teacher. I am planning on bringing this lovely book with me on my MA classes this coming week and I shall read this aloud – I figure this would be a fitting course-ender for my two research courses this semester for my lovely lovely teacher-students who are beginning on their graduate-studies journey.

Hooray to cactus and cows! And cheers to pigs wearing underpants!

Check out this link for the online Activity Page of the book, Teacher Activities, Games, and Sing-Along to boot.

Sources for the Images:
Cover of Diffendoofer Day: http://www.kdl.org/categories/205/books/2714
Back to School image: http://www.seussville.com/titles/diffendoofer/
Mr Lowe: http://www.seussville.com/titles/diffendoofer/

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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